Skin specialist working in Windsor campaigning for skin lightening product ban

Skin specialist working in Windsor campaigning for skin lightening product ban

Sujata Jolly

A skin specialist is campaigning over the dangers posed by using skin lightening treatments, after a Slough business was heavily punished for selling such products last month.

Sujata Jolly, who works as a research scientist at Windsor-based firm Clinogen, has worked since the 1980s to raise awareness of problems associated with using the prescription-only items.

The NHS defines skin lightening – or ‘bleaching’ – as a cosmetic procedure that aims to lighten dark areas of skin, or achieve a generally paler skin tone.

It is usually used to improve the appearance of blemishes, such as birthmarks and dark patches, while it can also be purchased for conditions such as acne.

While the health service does offer the products via a GP, it does warn people of the dangers posed and possible side effects that can be incurred.

However Ms Jolly has called for a worldwide ban on the use of the products, arguing that there are safer options on the market for those looking to use them for cosmetic reasons.

Skin lightening cream packaging (above). Photo from Slough Borough Council. 

She added that skin lightening treatments make someone’s skin much more vulnerable to UV light, due to it reducing a person’s concentration of the pigment melanin, which gives skin its colour and helps protect it from the sun.

Ms Jolly says she has also had cases where patients’ skin has turned blue or dark black as a result of continued use of the product, with banned substances such as hydroquinone often found in the treatments.

Last month, two directors of Slough business Beauty World saw their company fined thousands after skin lightening creams were illegally found on sale in their commercial unit based in Tesco, Wellington Street. 

“I am not attacking the NHS, but they have to be aware of what the dangers are,” Ms Jolly said. “We need to offer something safer.

“Telling people that it has got side effects if you use it, but we will give it to you anyway on prescription, is totally wrong.”

Ms Jolly added that safer treatments are available through her business, and has urged the NHS and the Government to tackle the issue more seriously.

“The damage they [skin lightening products] cause to the skin will cause more mental health issues, because now they [patients] have something more aggressive and are prone to getting UV damage,” she said.

“There is not enough information out there about the damage and the risks. We need to look at the safety of the people. It may not sound like a huge issue, but it is.”

A spokeswoman for the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency said: "Most skin lightening creams on the market are regulated as cosmetics but some are licensed medicines, available on prescription from a doctor.

"These usually contain hydroquinone and corticosteroids but their authorisation by us ensures they meet our standards of safety, quality and effectiveness.

“Creams that contain hydroquinone, corticosteroids or mercury that are not authorised by MHRA are potentially dangerous and may cause serious side effects.

“We work with Trading Standards to tackle the sale and supply of unlicensed skin-lightening products and we can take enforcement action against suppliers.

"Not only are they selling illegally but they are putting at risk the health and safety of purchasers.

“You can report suspected unauthorised or falsified medicines through our Yellow Card scheme.”

The NHS was contacted for comment. 

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